Fairfield County Sheriff Gary DeMastry, whose law enforcement career has been marred by corruption charges, has died aged 66.
According to his obituary, he died at Fairfield Medical Center on Friday for undisclosed reasons.
DeMastry served as Deputy Chief from 1981. He was elected sheriff in 1992 and served until he was charged in 2000 with multiple theft on office charges.
He was convicted by a Fairfield County jury in 2001 of 32 felonies involving poorly spent public money on meals, travel and entertainment, and then lying about it. He pleaded guilty to five other crimes in 2002.
DeMastry was sentenced to six years in prison, but a judge granted his request for 11 months release in early 2007.
Gary DeMastry: Fairfield County scandals led to statewide reforms
His case inspired a state law, enacted in 2005, which allows for the provisional and paid suspension of elected officials accused of a crime if the accusation relates to their official duties in the performance of their duties. This law allowed the suspension of civil servants pending the outcome of their trial and the recovery of their salaries and benefits once convicted.
Demastry the fall has also led to attempts to reform the way public officials are selected for public office, accounting guarantees and a philosophy of transparency and openness in the county, some current officials said.
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“I think people are a lot more careful today after he got an example,” said Fairfield County Commissioner Steve Davis, a former Lancaster city councilor who had known DeMastry from his childhood.
Davis, 58, noted that some county funds – such as the Law Enforcement Justice Promotion Fund – were less visible to the public and could have prompted officials to abuse the funds.
âHe really cared about the community,â Davis said. “And he was really loyal to those who were loyal to him.â¦ I think he had his day and was a good person.”
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DeMastry was born in Columbus in 1955 and graduated in 1973 from Fisher Catholic High School.
According to his obituary, he enjoyed coaching young athletes, especially those involving his grandchildren. He was an avid golfer and Duke University basketball fan.
âHe always made sure to tell people that he made an appearance in the movie ‘A Better Way to Die’,â his obituary said,referencing the 2000 film starring Lou Diamond Phillips and Natasha Henstridge.
DeMastry is survived by his wife, Penny; daughter, Nicole (Mark) Kolikohn; and several grandchildren, siblings, nieces and nephews.
A Christian burial mass will be held on Friday at 10:30 a.m. at the Sainte-Bernadette Catholic Church, followed by interment at the Sainte-Marie cemetery. Visitations will be on Thursday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Sheridan Funeral Home in Lancaster.